Tunisia economy grew 2 pct in first quarter: PM

Reuters, Saturday 12 May 2012

Country that sparked the Arab uprisings sees modest growth as investment and tourism stage mild recoveries

Tunisia's prime minister said on Thursday the economy grew 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, climbing back from a contraction a year ago.

"Despite the difficult conditions the country has gone through, it has achieved positive numbers in a short period of time. The growth average has risen from minus 1.8 per cent [in 2011] to 2 per cent," Hamadi Jebali told an economic conference in Beirut.
An uprising in January 2011 forced former leader Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali to leave Tunisia after almost 23 years in power, sparking the "Arab Spring" revolts that have swept the region.
Since then, a moderate Islamist party won the election held in the wake of the revolution and leads a coalition government.
The party's leaders have sought to reassure investors and tourists and promised to pursue business-friendly policies, but their left-wing secular opponents have organised successive strikes and protests that have undermined efforts to boost Tunisia's economy, which shrank 1.8 per cent in 2011.
A previous finance ministry forecast in March cut expectations for growth to 3.5 from 4.5 per cent, citing concerns that strikes and suspended business operations had decreased foreign investment.
Jebali, however, said foreign investment in the first third of 2012 was rising.
"The size of industrial and private sector investment has grown by 42 per cent and foreign investment has risen by 35 per cent in the first third of 2012."
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